SEATTLE, Jan. 16 /PRNewswire/ -- Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro has begun an investigation concerning actions by Merck (NYSE: MRK) and Schering-Plough (NYSE: SGP), manufacturers of Zetia and Vytorin. The investigation is looking into charges of whether Merck and Schering-Plough violated state consumer protection laws arising from the sale and marketing of Zetia and Vytorin.
Vytorin is the combination of Zetia and Zocor, a statin now available as a generic drug for about one-third of the cost.
The investigation centers around charges that the companies have known since 2006 that the combination of drugs was no more effective than the generic version of Zocor in blocking the fatty arterial plaques that can cause heart attack and stroke, as it led consumers to believe.
Zetia is a brand-name prescription used to lower LDL levels by decreasing cholesterol absorption in the intestinal tract. Other cholesterol-lowering drugs known as statins work in the liver.
Zetia was developed by Schering-Plough and jointly marketed by Merck and Shering-Plough, as is Vytorin.
According to published reports, the two companies promoted Zetia heavily, advertising that by adding it to statin treatment, patients could more effectively lower LDL cholesterol which they claim would, in turn, reduce plaque in patients' arteries.
But according to media reports, the companies had prior information that refuted that claim.
On January 14, 2008, Merck/Schering-Plough released the results of a drug trial intended to prove the claim and show a correlation between lowered LDL levels and fatty plaques in the arteries, which can cause heart attacks and strokes, according to published documents.
The investigation centers on allegations that while the study once again showed that Vytorin lowered LDL cholesterol rates better than Zocor alone, it also showed that the fatty arterial plaques actually grew somewhat faster in patients taking Zetia along with Zocor than in those taking Zocor alone.
The investigation is also looking into questions regarding the timing of the study's release. According to published reports, the two-year drug trial concluded April 2006 but wasn't announced until January 15, 2008. Reports also suggest Merck and Schering-Plough knew the results of the trials but delayed sharing the findings with patients and did not change its marketing approach.
Zetia and Vytorin account for combined sales of $1.1 billion during the fourth quarter of 2007. The agreement with Merck and Schering-Plough provided that the companies split profits roughly 50-50, depending on regions.
The investigation is examining remedies for patients, including the possibility of legal action seeking the return of money to purchasers of Vytorin and Zetia, which the study shows are no more effective than the generic form of Zocor.
About Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro
Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro is based in Seattle with offices in
Chicago, Cambridge, Los Angeles, Phoenix and San Francisco. Since 1993, it
has developed a nationally recognized practice in class-action and complex
litigation. Among recent successes, HBSS has negotiated a $300 million
settlement in the DRAM memory antitrust litigation; a $340 million recovery
on behalf of Enron employees; a $150 million settlement involving charges
of illegally inflated charges for the drug Lupron, and served as co-counsel
on the Visa/Mastercard litigation which resulted in a $3 billion
settlement, the largest anti-trust settlement to date. HBSS served as
counsel in a $850 million Washington Public Power Supply settlement and
represented Washington and 12 other states against the tobacco industry
that resulted in the largest settlement in history. For a complete listing
of HBSS cases, visit http://www.hbsslaw.com.
Steve Berman (206) 623-7292
Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro
Mark Firmani (206) 443-9357
Firmani + Associates, Inc.
|SOURCE Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro|
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